Ciobaca: From Small-Step Semantics to Big-Step Semantics, Automatically

describes how to go from small-step to big-step semantics.

I need to do the other way around: from big-step to small-step. Is there literature for this? What should I be careful of?

EXTENSION: I have a big-step operational semantics for a functional language and for my purposes I need to write a small-step operational semantics for it. Can you point to relevant scientific literature on how I should do this, what are the pitfalls?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Going from big-steps to small-steps is known as "the Art of Programming", IMO. $\endgroup$
    – user16034
    Feb 21, 2022 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ Please edit your question to expand a bit more on what you mean by "go from big-step to small-step semantics". $\endgroup$
    – D.W.
    Feb 21, 2022 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


Here are a couple articles on the matter.

From Big-Step to Small-Step Semantics and Back with Interpreter Specialisation and Automatic Transformation of a Big-Step Skeletal Semantics into Small-Step

Also, if you need to write your own semantics for a functionnal language, you should have a look at pcf's semantics, for example here. If you feel adventurous, start with a semantics for the lambda calculus and go your own way.


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